VICTORIAN beef and sheepmeat processor Midfield is trialling a new contact tracing technology that could revolutionise the way abattoirs minimise their COVID-19 risk during the global pandemic.
Smart Badge general manager Simon Finlayson said the blue tooth-enabled wearable technology has been inset into hard hats at the Warrnambool abattoir to track worker close contacts, automatically uploading live data in real-time.
“So what it means to a Midfield-type business is if they get a COVID case they can go to their data at any time very very fast and respond very quickly to isolate that case and any of the close contacts themselves to ensure it doesn’t spread.
“This would obviously reduce their shutdown times and keeping the rest of their workforce operational,” he said.
Midfield general manager Dean McKenna said the company was the first meat processing facility in Australia to trial the new Smart Badge technology.
“Basically it’s a new technology that can identify specific user interaction and locations, allowing us to trace staff movements in the plant and monitor and minimize interactions between staff.
“The product was developed in Melbourne, and as an Australian owned and operated company ourselves this is particularly important to our business ethos,” Mr McKenna said.
“We have had a trial at our Warrnambool plant this week and are confident of implementing the system after a few tweaks to customize the technology for Midfield.”
Mr McKenna said the technology trial helped the company monitor staff numbers across the plant and enhanced existing in-house measures implemented to comply with Government capacity regulations.
“Seeing live data of the number of people in each area of the plant allowed us to manage capacity limits, which is obviously a critical component of business operations in our industry in the current pandemic.
“We take the safety and livelihood of our staff and the broader community very seriously and this Smart Badge technology has helped us to proactively protect both.”
This trial comes after Midfield voluntarily ceased production and tested all Warrnambool based staff in July, after a meat inspector who visited the site tested positive five days after being at the Warrnambool plant. Midfield has managed to avoid any COVID-19 infections among its workers or at the plant by acting early to test all staff during the pandemic, implementing full personal protection equipment practices for workers and visitors, along with daily deep cleaning, distancing and shift isolation.
Mr Finlayson said the Smart Badges devices can be worn on the wrist or at Midfield they were fitted into hard hats.
“Every couple of weeks they will have to plug their hard hat in and charge it for 15 minutes.”
The devices gives auto-updates through a node in the business.
“So there is no manual download process, it just automatically collects the data of the people you have been close to and sends it up to, in Midfield’s case, their database.”